Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Delusion XV - Logical Positivism?

From wikipedia
Although the logical positivists held a wide range of beliefs on many matters, they were all interested in science and skeptical of theology and metaphysics. Early on, most logical positivists believed that all knowledge is based on logical inference from simple "protocol sentences" grounded in observable facts. Many logical positivists supported forms of materialism, philosophical naturalism, and empiricism.


Early critics of logical positivism said that its fundamental tenets could not themselves be formulated in a way that was clearly consistent. The verifiability criterion of meaning did not seem verifiable; but neither was it simply a logical tautology, since it had implications for the practice of science and the empirical truth of other statements. This presented severe problems for the logical consistency of the theory.

It is this grounding in observable facts, and it not being an Axiomatic system, that gives its appeal. When most people I talk to think of "logic" and reason, this is what they are talking about. This is often why I am confounded by people who tell me higher mathematics is not "logical". It is just that maths is not necessarily grounded in observable facts. This is the "Logic" that Dawkins uses, which has been shown to have perpetual consistency difficulties, which should colour the claims that God is inconsistent with observable phenomena. This differs from what I call "logic", which is based on provably consistent axiomatic reasoning. I insist that "reality will not contradict itself" and that axiomatic reasoning is vitally important in Science, and in our understanding of our place in the Universe.


Reality said...

Do I contradict myself?
Very well, then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

winstoninabox said...

I followed the link you provided for axiomatic reasoning. From near the end of it I quote "It is easy to see that the axiomatic method has limitations outside mathematics."

As we're outside of mathematics do you see limitations for using axiomatic reasoning in this case?

If not, why not?
If so, what are they?

Marco said...

The limitations of Axiomatic reasoning outside of mathematics are as follows:

* There is a trade-off between decreased grounding and increased clarity.

* Arguments tend to be more an abstract representation of reality, which then has to be de-abstracted to relate it to observable experience.

* Axioms that for the benefit of the argument are assumed to be true, are out of bounds as elements to be argued about.

* The average individual has a great deal of trouble thinking abstractly as is required. For me it is absolutely natural, and the only way I can visualise an argument. For most people, the natural way to think and argue in natural language is much closer to a logical positivist perspective.

winstoninabox said...

Thanks marco. I'll process this.

And I'd like to give another thank you for including quotes in your posts. I for one think it really improves the clarity and robustness of what you're writing about.

I reckon the last few are much improved.

Marco said...

Unfortunately, it interrupts my reading momentum of the book. I may lose interest in some of the other chapters and just keep hammering at the central hypothesis :)

winstoninabox said...

Well I haven't returned to the book in a few weeks. I've been reading other stuff. Maybe in the future we could agree on a new to talk about and read and write about it at the same time!

Marco said...

Yeah, maybe. I think it was parental pressure that got me to read it in the first place. The refusal to my father to read it was incorrectly taken as me being a religious nut. My views are certainly more nuanced than that, but I kind of felt I had to go through the motions of reading it to prove that to other people rather than having to prove it to myself. It is more pleasurable to write about it than to read it:)